My favorite street food things

Fried wontons with homemade plum sauce at Bamee Gua

(Photo by @anuntakob)

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered from voraciously reading blogs and glossy weeklies, it’s that there are not enough lists out there posing as articles. To address this obvious imbalance, I’m going to try my hand at a few “list” stories, because I know that everyone, everywhere, is starving for more lists.

Such as: who do I blame first when something goes wrong?

1. My parents

2. My lost iPhone

3. Thailand

Or: What are my top three recurring nightmares?

1. Being chased by voracious man-eating crocodiles

2. Being chased by angry man with chainsaw

3. Going to a buffet and getting paralyzed by the immense variety of choice before finally coming to a decision, only to discover that I’ve lost your way back (OMIGERD SO AWFUL).

Or how about: Which successful eating spots leave me completely baffled? (aka I DON’T GET IT, YOU GUYZ)

1. Smith (I’m sorry)

2. Coffee Bean (it’s because of the cakes, right?)

3. MBK Food Court (this one most of all. If you must go a-food-courtin’, just amble on down the road to Platinum Mall, where it is MUCH BETTER. Really).

But why wallow in negativity? We should dispense with this talk of nightmares and food courts. What about my favorite three street food dishes right now? If you asked me about this a year ago, I would have said something along the lines of bamee kai (egg noodles with soft-boiled eggs), fried chicken, and, uh, bamee kai. But things change. What I can’t wait to eat now:

1. The minced pork noodles with egg at Bamee Gua (guaythiew moo san gub kai dip)

I’ve written about this fabulous noodle place before, but I want to emphasize how much I absolutely love this stand (sandwiched between the Vietnamese restaurant at Luxx XL hotel on Langsuan Rd). Everything here, down to the pickled turnip bits they use as garnish on their noodles, is homemade: the bamee, the wonton wrappers for their giew (dumplings), the plum dipping sauce for their fried wontons. While street food is, first and foremost, a convenience thing — “fast food” — it doesn’t necessarily mean everything should be some mass-produced whatever, all instant noodles, MSG and some processed squid strands. The food should be a convenience for the diner, but not for the vendor. The very best street food should be a labor of love (think In-n-Out Burger, not McDonald’s).

Bamee Gua embodies this, especially in a dish like the minced pork noodles, which are hard to find nowadays. Sort of like a Thai adaptation of spaghetti bolognese, it features thick rice noodles topped with a thick pork ragu, fragrant with curry powder and topped with a bright raw egg yolk for that extra somethin-somethin. I could go on and on, but I’ll just say: It is absolutely delicious.

2. Grilled fatty pork shoulder at Moo Jum on Suan Plu (kaw moo yang)

One of my editors put me onto this place (located at the entrance to Suan Plu Soi 3), which I had heard about for years but never went to. After writing a story that I thought pretty comprehensively listed all the places in Bangkok at which you could eat Thai food, he asked: “HAVE U HEARD OF THIS PLACE WITH THE FATTY PORK NECK? THE PHOTOGRAPHER TOOK SOME GOOD PICS THERE” and I was all: “NAH” while thinking mind yer own freakin beeswax, photographer guy. 

Despite the fact that Photographer Guy liked it first, Moo Jum is a great place, and not just because of the fatty pork neck, which is tender, meaty, saucy, even a little sweet. It’s got great service, a loyal clientele, and a super range of sides — the spicy squid salad comes to mind — as well as the Isaan-style sukiyaki that is the namesake dish. In short, it’s got everything, and I’m glad I finally made it there.

Fatty pork at Moo Jum

(Photo by @SpecialKRB)

3. Yen ta fo noodles at a whole bunch of different places like Guaythiew Pik Gai Nam Pung on Sukhumvit)

There is nothing that says THAI FOOD to me more right now than yen ta fo (seafood noodles in a pink fermented tofu sauce), which is funny since this is a Chinese-Thai dish. Whatever. The mix of flavors and textures — tart, sweet, spicy, slithery and crunchy — tell you everything you want to know about the interplay of all the elements that come to hand in Thai food, from the lip-puckering tartness of the red sauce to the surprise savory crunch of the deep-fried pork rind garnish.

You must choose carefully though; yen ta fo made badly is a bad, bad dish, all insipid sweetness with no depth whatsoever, the Playmate of noodles. The worst one I’ve had was at (and here we come full circle) the MBK Food Court, but I’ve had far more bowls that were fantastic, all over the country. Like everything else that’s worth the effort, explore and find your own favorite.

A bowl of yen ta fo noodles

(Photo by @SpecialKRB)


Filed under Asia, Bangkok, food, food stalls, noodles, pork, Thailand

6 responses to “My favorite street food things

  1. yay for a list post! This week I wrote my first list post ever, and maybe the last. So much easier to write than trying to compose something with a beginning/middle/end.

    PS: Your posts always get my stomach growling in Beijing.

    • When I worked at BK, all our stories were inevitably list stories because they were the easiest things to do, and readers actually seemed to prefer them to real stories. Everyone wants things ranked, even if they don’t agree with the rankings!
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Oh, can we go to Moo Jum? That looks divine.

  3. YENTAFOOO! That brings up fond memories of my childhood, used to eat it all the time.

    • It’s one of my favorite noodle dishes, so I’m always surprised when people tell me they never eat it. I feel like they might have been turned off by a bad bowl and don’t want to give it another try.

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